Polarity Learning Community

Elaine and I were able to attend the Polarity Thinking Learning Community (PLC) in Colorado Springs, CO September 26-28, hosted at the Center for Creative Leadership.


For those new to Polarity Thinking, check out our website. A little overview, Polarity Thinking is a perspective and process that allows you to think at a higher and more complex level through the use of Both/And thinking. We all are educated to put problems in an either/or context: EITHER we focus on stability OR change. In reality we need BOTH. Too much change to the neglect of stability leads to chaos and uncoordinated action. Stability to the neglect of change leads to stagnation and perhaps loss of market share…


I presented “Socio-Political Context Shaping each Generations Relationship to Hope + Reality”. Four generations were represented in the room: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X’s and Millenials. I developed a polarity assessment on Hope and Reality from the perspective of each generation.


Hope and Reality are both necessary to move a generation forward to Progress and Live, to provide a better life for my children, and live the life my parents imagined for me.

This polarity map looked at the upsides of Hope, the downside of Hope to the neglect of Reality, the upside of Reality, and the downside of reality to the neglect of hope.


The group self assessed their own vision of their generation related to Hope and Reality and then assessed a different generation. This provided the groundwork for an illuminating discussion between the generations and the impact of having same and different perspectives across generations. All of you who work across generations understand the importance of understanding perspectives and gleaning the best from the wisdom of each age group.


I then went through the major socio-political events that took place during the formative years of each generation as a way to look at the generations in a different way and to deepen the understanding about why the different generations might relate to the polarity differently. Traditionalists who went through the Great Depression or heard stories from their parents rightfully have a different relationship to money, for example, than do many Millenials.


Elaine presented “Polarities in the Third Chapter of Life.” She walked the participants through their own transitions and helped those not yet in the Third chapter understand perspectives in that chapter for their clients.. Elaine based her presentation on the work she has done developing the retreat: ENCORE: Illuminate Your Mission in Life’s Third Chapter launched September 16-18, 2016.


When I’m thinking about something in my life, I find a way to teach it. And so that’s what I did with the third chapter. I created ENCORE, where women have a place to reflect on their past, sort what they want to keep and let go and create a mission for the next decade that will serve themselves and the world.

Elaine Yarbrough during PLC 2016

At PLC, the presentation was a case study while also taking the people in the room through their own mini-version of the polarities prevalent during the ENCORE weekend. One of the questions posed to the group was “How do you know you’re in a transition?” and some of the answers were:

  • “Breakdown in Obviousness”

  • “Dreams are different”

  • “Engaged but silent”

  • “My mother used to say, ‘The hardest thing about aging is to stay clean and interesting,’ and now I know what she meant!”

  • “Felt like I was a Google Chrome window with a bunch of tabs open. Noticed that I was pulled in many directions. Decided to start closing tabs in order to be more present.”

Another activity was assessing their level of busy-ness, the benefits of busy-ness and what they miss as they scurry and hurry through life. Participants left the session having a clearer sense of some of the polarities that might be in play as they enter new life stages and coach others through the same.


Some participants at PLC were very interested in coming to the next offering of ENCORE April 21-23, 2017.


We were proud to be presenters at PLC 2016 and look forward to connecting with the polarity community next year. In complex, turbulent times, we are convinced that age-old either/or thinking sets us up for more trouble and conflict. Polarity Thinking provides a process for a healthy sustainable future.

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